HILTON TAKES TOP FUEL AT TULSA – WITTENBERG CLINCHES CHAMPIONSHIP

Tyler Hilton hammered the big-block Chevrolet powered Great Expectations III into the Nitro Nationals winner’s circle with a 6.39 ET at 239 MPH after Runner-Up Pete Wittenberg struck the tires at the hit in the KMA Circuit Breaker.

After posting event Low ET and Top Speed, Wittenberg clinched the 2020 NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Championship in the season-closing AA/Fuel pedalfest that came down to a margin of victory of just five-thousandths of a second.

The track was cooling down as the two Top Fuel titans staged into the night. The “KMA Circuit Breaker” hemi broke traction first, but Wittenberg wasn’t the only one fighting the balance of power over pavement. Hilton said he felt things get loose a little further down track and rolled into the fearsome big block Chevrolet for the win. “I don’t think the track would have held a quick pedal. It was pretty close at the end, but I was there first.”

Wittenberg quickly recovered from the smokey step and launched the hemi-powered “KMA Circuit Breaker” into hot pursuit, driving out the back door at 246 MPH with an almost but not enough 6.43-second ET. The two-time Bakersfield March Meet Top Fuel winner came into the race in the number one points position and pulled the chutes on the Nitro Nationals as the 2020 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series Nostalgia Top Fuel Champion.

2020 NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Season Champion Pete Wittenberg and the KMA Circuit Breaker crew. Photo: Mary Robinson

More: Hot Rod Heritage Series Championship rundown from the NHRA. Bates, Cottrell, and Wittenberg claim 2020 Heritage Series Championships

The Top Fuel season wrap-up at Tulsa Raceway park saw timing tree trip-ups and mechanical mishaps through two qualifying sessions and eliminations. Brendan Murry overcame qualifying troubles but went out in round one eliminations with a 6.63 to Pete Wittenberg’s winning 6.169. Tim Cullinan’s 5.88 dispatched Jim Murphy, and Tyler Hilton’s 6.05 defeated Paul Schultz. Dusty Green drove Steve Harwood’s “Nitro Hemi” into the semi-final with a 5.89 over Gary Wheeler in the all-new Grand Prix Auto AA/Fueler.  

Wittenberg moved into the final with a 5.89 at 195 after Dusty Green scrubbed with mechanical problems during the warmup, and Tyler Hilton’s 5.83-second 246 MPH win over Tim Cullinan set the stage for the final Nostalgia Top Fuel battle of 2020. In an opening ceremonies move that foreshadowed the outcome, Tulsa Raceway Park impresario Todd Martin recognized three generations of Hilton and Lee family drag racing achievement by presenting Alison Lee with a Lifetime Dedication Award. Jim and Alison Lee campaigned the original “Great Expectations II” AA/Fuel dragster in the ’60s and ’70s. 

With the California Hot Rod Reunion’s cancellation, the Nitro Nationals at Tulsa Raceway Park marked the end of a tumultuous year for the NHRA Heritage Series drag racing community and the entire world. Head over the NHRA for the official 2020 Hot Rod Heritage Nostalgia Top Fuel Championship points final and mark the calendar for the 2021 March Meet at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California.

HOLLEY NATIONAL HOT ROD REUNION RESCHEDULED

The 2020 Holley National Hot Rod Reunion presented by AAA Insurance is postponed and rescheduled for August 20-22nd at Beech Bend Raceway. Racer participation deadline is extended to July 15th, and spectator tickets are valid for the rescheduled event. For more information, read the official announcement from the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum below. We will update the rest of the 2020 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series racing schedule as the news comes in.

Holley National Hot Rod Reunion to be Rescheduled

Pomona, California. – The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum officials announced today the postponement of the 2020 Holley National Hot Rod Reunion presented by AAA Insurance held at Beech Bend Raceway, Bowling Green, Kentucky. The annual three-day event, originally scheduled for mid-June, has been rescheduled to August 20-22 at Beech Bend Raceway.

We made this difficult decision as we see the effects this pandemic is having on our country, fans, sponsors, and racers. We believe this is the right decision since social distancing and reducing gatherings of people has been implemented in most areas of the country.

All classes originally scheduled will continue to be contested at the rescheduled event. Deadline registration date for participants not yet registered has been extended to July 15th.

Tickets purchased in advance of the June event may be used at the rescheduled August 20-22 Reunion. Tickets holders unable to attend on the rescheduled date should contact NHRA Ticket Services at (800) 884-6472 or nto@nhra.com.

The Museum, located in Pomona, is currently closed in compliance with California State law. Though we have to be physically apart, we encourage you to stay connected with the Reunion community through www.nhramuseum.org

WITTENBERG TAKES TOP FUEL AT MARCH MEET

Pete Wittenberg won his second March Meet championship with a 5.67-second 257 MPH blast in the KMA Circuit Breaker against Tyler Hilton, who turned a 5.92 ET at 229 MPH in the Great Expectations III for Runner-Up. Wittenberg held the #1 qualifying spot all weekend, posted event Low ET with a 5.60-second 254 MPH second session qualifying run, and powered the KMA Circuit Breaker into the winner’s circle for the second time since his 2018 win against Mendy Fry. “This one was way more emotional,” said Wittenberg. “The final was a solid race. It was great racing and weather all weekend.” Jimi Young brought his tuning experience to the Circuit Breaker team at Famoso, and the hemi-powered fueler was on full power out of the box.

Pete Wittenberg in the KMA Circuit Breaker
Tyler Hilton wheels up in the Great Expectations III

Tyler Hilton drove the big-block Chevrolet powered Great Expectations III into the decider with three generations of family drag racing heritage. His historic Runner-Up marked over 50 years since the Hilton&Lee Great Expectations I raced the March Meet in 1967. Hilton clocked a best ever 5.78 ET at 236 MPH in the last session qualifying that took out the engine and the time was disqualified. The team dropped in the reserve Rodek on Saturday night and powered through the pack. Hilton got the reaction time advantage, but hemi power prevailed over the Chevy. “It was good,” said Hilton. “I left on Pete. We had to put our spare in it last night, and it isn’t totally the same. But it was a great weekend. Running that ‘.78 was bitchin.”

MARCH MEET TOP FUEL QUALIFYING ACTION

The Top Fuel fight at Famoso kicked off with a Thursday night Nitro Testing session and Friday qualifying. Pete Wittenberg grabbed Low ET with a 5.73-second 234 MPH run. Bryan Hall clocked the “H&H Nomad” into close #2 with a 5.76 ET at 239 MPH. Rick White fouled out with an oildown that kicked out the rods and knocked the Autopower Neil & White hemi out of the running. The dirty dozen dropped down to eleven. Check out the video for all the Session One Qualifying action.

Full Session One Top Fuel qualifying action from CompetitionPlusTV. Tune in and turn it up!

Jim Murphy launched the “WW2” into the #2 slot with a 5.63-second 252 MPH run in the final qualifying session. Frank McBee Jr., Brendan Murry, and Adam Sorokin were out of the running heading into Top Fuel Eliminator. Sorokin lost traction at the hit in the last session as shaking the gremlins out of the all-new Champion Speed Shop dragster at the March Meet proved unsuccessful. Dusty Green and the “Triple Threat” bowed out broken heading into Top Fuel Eliminator, and Brendan Murry rolled the “Running Wild” into the lanes back in the #8 slot.

TOP FUEL FINAL AND QUALIFYING BY-THE-NUMBERS

The March Meet Top Fuel Final and more video action including Jim Murphy’s 5.63-second 252 MPH blast into the #2 slot.
  1. Pete Wittenberg 5.60, 254
  2. Jim Murphy 5.63, 252
  3. Bryan Hall 5.75, 263
  4. Bret Williamson 5.76, 253
  5. Dan Horan Jr. 5.79, 248
  6. Tyler Hester 5.84, 221
  7. Tyler Hilton 5.85, 233
  8. Dusty Green 5.90, 211

TOP FUEL ELIMINATOR

Eliminations kicked off as Wittenberg dispatched a tire-shaking Murray with a 5.68 ET at 247 MPH. Tyler Hilton got the holeshot and pedaled the Great Expectations III out the back door with a 6.08-second 227 MPH win over Jim Murphy’s 6.02 ET at 180 MPH in the WW2. Hilton’s margin of victory was 1/100th of second. Rookie driver Tyler Hester moved on in the Overtime Special with 5.89-second 212 MPH win after the Bryan Hall popped the blower for a 6.70 ET at 143 MPH in the H&H Nomad. Dan Horan Jr. won it with a 5.79-second 234 MPH charge around Bret Williamson, who posted a 5.90 ET at 241 MPH in the Forever Young.

SEMI-FINAL SHAKEOUT

Wittenberg got out and stayed out with a 5.66-second 250 MPH win over Horan’s 5.80 ET at 250 MPH. Hilton moved onto the decider with a 5.95-second 210 MPH win in a close fight with Hester, who turned a 6.00 ET at 199 MPH in his first time racing at the March Meet. The Semi-Final shakeout set the stage for the hemi vs. Chevy final round battle at Famoso. Pete Wittenberg and the hemi-powered KMA Circuit Breaker took home the trophy.

The 62nd Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet was the opening salvo in the 2020 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing series. The next stop for the All American Fuel Dragsters is the Holley National Hot Rod Reunion June 18th-20th at Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Be there!

All photography ©Dave Kommel

TOP FUEL BY THE DOZEN AT BAKERSFIELD

Twelve AA/Fuel contenders are staged in for a Top Fuel dragster battle of the ages at the 62nd Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet. Veteran drivers in all-new cars and rookie hot shoes in proven performers will face off for the title as three generations of drag racers converge at Auto Club Famoso Raceway. The historic event is the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series season opener and the first of five races in the runup for the 2020 Nostalgia Top Fuel championship title.

©Dave Kommel Photography

Last year’s March Meet champion Adam Sorokin will suit up and close the canopy on the latest evolution of the Champion Speed Shop AA/Fueler. The all-new dragster brings South San Francisco hot rod heritage to the ‘patch with its handcrafted aluminum bodywork by Roy Brizio Street Rods and fearsome McLennan small-block Chevrolet power. Two-time March Meet champ Rick McGee is passing on the nitro knowledge to his nephew Tyler Hester, who will drive the Tedford & McGee “Overtime Special” in his first March Meet competition.

Tyler Hilton and the big block Chevrolet powered “Great Expectations III” are heading to the March Meet for the first time since his grandparents Jim and Alison Lee campaigned the original “Great Expectations I” in 1967. Tyler’s Dad and Crew Chief Robert Hilton, along with tuning ace Grandmother Alison Lee, will represent three generations of Top Fuel family heritage at Bakersfield. After a Funny Car tumble at the Winternationals, Dan Horan Jr. is rolling in with the Pete Kaiser-tuned dragster tribute to his late father, the legendary driver “Digger” Dan Horan Sr.

Jim Murphy will gun for a record 5th March Meet victory in his “WW2”, and 2018 March Meet winner Pete Wittenberg is making the connection in the “KMA Circuit Breaker.” Brendan Murry will put the whip to his “Running Wild” 426 hemi and 2011 March Meet champ Rick White will fire up the Neal & White “Autopower” entry. Dusty Green is bringing it back in threes with his “Triple Threat” hemi, and Bret Williamson will pilot the Mike Fuller Motorsports “Forever Young” fueler.

Bryan Hall put the finishing touches on the H&H Nomad hemi, and Frank McBee Jr. is back in the Valley Thunder Racing fueler. Both racers launched their new cars into the mix at the California Hot Rod Reunion last fall and are ready to put up a new year’s fight. 2018 and 2019 season champion Mendy Fry and the High Speed Motorsports team are out of the running for now, with no plan for a return at this time.

The March Meet Top Fuel battle kicks off with a Nitro Testing Session Thursday at 3 PM. Qualifying Session One is currently scheduled for Friday at 3 PM. Session Two hits at high noon on Saturday with Session Three at 3 PM. Eliminations are set for Sunday following 11 AM opening ceremonies. Head over to the Auto Club Famoso Raceway for the latest March Meet information. Schedule subject to change.

NEXT STOP MARCH MEET: HERITAGE SERIES OUT OF TIME AT WINTERNATIONALS

The All American Fuel Dragsters were in the house for the 60th Annual Lucas Winternationals, but couldn’t beat the odds of time. The NHRA invited select Hot Rod Heritage Series Nostalgia Pro Stock, Top Fuel, and Funny Car racers to help celebrate sixty years of Winternationals history, but a series of unforeseen events ran out the clock on scheduled Friday and Saturday exhibition sessions. Two pairs of front-engine fuelers got down the track Friday night, and race control scrubbed all Saturday Heritage Series runs.

Nostalgia nitro action kicked off on Friday with a Funny Car matchup between Dan Horan Jr. and Justin Taylor. Horan took the round with a 5.65 ET at 262 MPH, but his parachute failed to deploy. Horan grabbed the brakes, bounced into the sand traps, and stopped upside down in the nets. The seasoned Funny Car and Top Fuel dragster driver emerged A-OK, but the cleanup pushed the clock too far forward. Race control turned the waiting Nostalgia Funny Cars and Top Fuelers back to the pits and postponed further race action until after Top Alcohol qualifying sessions at the end of the day.

Mendy Fry and Tyler Hilton rolled their AA/Fuelers onto a cold track as the sun slipped behind the horizon. Fry ran a 5.75 ET at 197 MPH in the High Speed Motorsports hemi, and Hilton belted out a 5.97-second 226 MPH blast in the big-block Chevrolet-powered Great Expectations III. Adam Sorokin cackled out in the all-new Champion Speed Shop dragster with Rick White in the other lane. Sorokin clicked the small-block Chevrolet at half-track for a 6.31 ET at 179 MPH, and Rick White churned out a 6.30 ET at 173 MPH in the Neil & White dragster with an oildown that spelled the end of Friday night nitro under the lights.

Nostalgia Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock were in the lanes waiting for their Saturday sessions when a series of unforeseen oildowns, mishaps, and delays pushed the clock past the limit. Race control canceled all Heritage Series exhibition runs due to time constraints as the big show rolled on. The decision was disappointing for the invited Heritage Series racers and fans but not entirely unexpected, given the unyielding live television broadcast schedule of Winterationals Mello Yello Drag Racing Series action.

The weekend moved two-time Heritage Series Nostalgia Top Fuel Champion Mendy Fry, whose Friday night run might have been the last for her and the High-Speed Motorsports team. “We may bring the car out again, but there isn’t anything on our schedule at the moment,” said Fry. Adam Sorokin faced a different kind of uncertainty as he drove the untested Champion Speed Shop dragster to half-track on its inaugural run, and the two-time March Meet winning driver is looking forward to Famoso. “I want to see what it does on a full pass,” said Sorokin.

The next stop for the All-American Fuel Dragster coalition is the 62nd Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet presented by Lucas Oil – March 5th-8th at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California. The famous fight at Famoso is the first of five NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Nostalgia Top Fuel Championship races. Head over to Famoso Raceway for March Meet information.

All roads lead to the 62nd Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet at Auto Club Famoso Raceway.

All images are screen grabs from the NHRA.tv live stream of the 60th Annual Lucas Oil Internationals.